I’ve been pondering all that has happened with the Alpha Gamma Rho fraternity since the news broke about the hazing incident. My heart has been heavy, especially as I thought about the young men involved. I can’t imagine what it has been like for them on this campus. And my heart hurts for them. What comes to mind is a scene from the film Raising Helen. There comes a point in the movie when Kate Hudson and Joan Cusack must confront the wayward niece who secretly ditches the prom in favor of getting a hotel room with a boy that seems to stay in trouble. I love the line where Joan Cusack addresses the young man (after thoroughly chewing him out) saying something like “By the way, you are not bad. What you did is bad, but you are not bad.”
This is what my heart feels, and wants to say to the young men all wrapped up in what happened at the AGR house. Those were some awfully bad choices. But you are not bad. I believe you were created in love, that the One who created you loves you (even now, especially now) and can restore every dignity that your poor choices took away. . . . if you allow it.
If we were all honest, we could say that there are things we have done that dishonor and mar the human dignity we were given at birth. We have also done things to strip others of their dignity. It would be easy for each of us to believe we would never make such choices, but the truth is the potential lies within each of us. I just know that in my own life there are sins that must be forgiven, things I regret deeply and must seek God’s forgiveness for before moving on to be who I was made to be.
I know this can be a difficult issue. Mercy would be so much easier if choices happened in a vacuum and only the ones choosing were affected. But in the real world this is hardly true. The consequences of our choices ripple out in ways we could hardly imagine. All we have to do is read the past issues of this very paper to see that those who are not even associated with the fraternity now have a reputation tied to the AGR incident within the larger community of our country because they attend WKU. I do believe that time will do its part in making this situation old news. But there are plenty of situations in life where the choices of some affecting the lives of others do not go away so easily.
Particularly in cases of abuse, those who must survive the choices others make can often find themselves overlooked, their stories of suffering unheard. The need for healing and restoration can seem bigger than the help available, more demanding than simply letting time pass by. This is why I believe God takes our choosing so seriously, and never merely says, “Forget about it; it was nothing.” It is always something when God’s children hurt. God’s heart always hurts with us and works to bring healing. And God always holds us accountable for the truth of our choices. We can never misrepresent the outcome of our choices before God; God knows the outcome better than we do. It is why as Christians we call our poor choices “sin”. True, it is an ugly word, yet what it does to others, ourselves, and the world we live in is ugly. However, as a Christian, I also believe in hope and forgiveness. Now matter how big we mess up, I believe that the God who is big enough heal what we broke is big enough to forgive us and change our hearts, so that we don’t go around hurting others anymore.
As a campus minister my prayer for the brothers of Alpha Gamma Rho is that each one will find the mercy and forgiveness they need. It is also for all of us who have messed up in ways we cannot even talk about to discover we are still loved. It is finally for those whose dignity has been taken from them because of someone else’s choices to find and experience the healing Love that redeems and restores what life took away.